So many games in 2016 are blasting off into space. With the likes of No Man’s Sky, Star Trek Online and the controversial Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare all just round the corner, does Kerbal Space Program stand out from the crowd or disappear into the black hole of gaming?
KSP is a space program simulator that originally released on PC, but is now available on PS4 and Xbox One. There’s no set objective or campaign that you need to follow. KSP is whatever you make it. There are three game modes in Kerbal Space Program: sandbox, science and career. Sandbox mode gives you access to all parts and features from the start, with no constraints like funding or reputation. Science mode provides you with basic gear, allowing you to unlock new technology in KSP’s research and development area. In career mode you manage ALL aspects of your space program, including funds, reputation and scientific research.
There is an in-depth training environment which is great for beginners. There are lots of helpful tips, flight plans and tutorials that can be really useful if this is your first flight. Each of these game modes does have the same setting; The planet Kerbin, home to a species known as Kerbals, is where you are in charge of a pioneering space agency. There is no set goal, no campaign mode as such. You can choose to mimic earth’s space-faring history, beginning with sub orbit, progressing to landing on Mun, Kerbin’s moon, and then on to further endeavours like the other planets in the solar system. You could also choose to skip all that and go straight for the exploration of other planets, if that’s what you want.
Another cool aspect is being able to design your own ship from the ground up. This part was the one I found more difficult, as it does take a LOT of concentration to get everything in just the right place, otherwise it doesn’t end well. If, like me, you find building the rockets a bit of a challenge, you can pick from the vast array of ready-made rocket designs available in the game. Once you’ve decided on a rocket, next is the crew. You can take your pick from various Kerbals based on their personal stats and specialism (Scientist, Engineer or Pilot).
The actual flight mechanic is great, even allowing for real-life space flight maneuvers. You can launch in multiple stages, with variable throttle and full control of your direction. I’ve used a few different flight simulators in the past, with this one being among the top for realism, something I didn’t expect from a game in which the main characters are little green cartoon aliens.
The graphics are okay where it matters, with the rockets being well detailed. The distant objects and landscapes are slightly disappointing, with the ocean looking like one piece of water-like pattern copied and pasted over and over again. Once you leave Kerbin’s atmosphere, the view really does pick up, with the view of space looking fantastic. The audio seems fairly universal, with the same audio files seeming to be used for every rocket type. For a game that is so customisable, it’s slightly disappointing for the audio in this game to be so generic. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not bad, it’s just a bit boring after you’ve heard the same sound already.
Kerbal Space Program is very entertaining; I got a great feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction after finishing my first space flight. This game certainly has a strong playability factor to it; there are endless tasks you can set yourself to try to improve your space agency. You can conduct scientific studies to improve Kerbal-kind or just try to see how far you can get. Be warned though, if your Kerbals don’t make it back they are lost, and you need to recruit more (or mount a spectacular rescue mission, but good luck with that). There were a couple of glitches here and there, with the only major one being that the settings screen doesn’t scroll all the way down, so there are some settings that I can never change. It seems glitches like this are just a byproduct of the game being ported from PC.
The big question is: is Kerbal Space Program worth the money? KSP currently costs $39.99, with no set price or release date for regions outside of North America. At the end of the day, you get what you pay for, this isn’t the biggest title of the year, but it’s still a good game. And yes, I think it is worth the price if you like this type of game, but if you’ve never liked physics games, flight simulators or sandbox games, this isn’t the game for you.
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